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Erdogan Slams 'Persian Expansionism' In Region But Says Iran's Help Needed In Iraq, Syria

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech on May 21, 2017
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech on May 21, 2017

Iraqi and Syrian issues won’t be resolved without Iran’s involvement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. But at the same time he has criticized "Persian expansionism" in the region.

In an interview with Portuguese TV network RTP, Erdogan called on the United States and Saudi Arabia to join Iran, Turkey, and Russia at Astana talks to help bring peace to Syria, reported Anadolou News Agency.

Previously, former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan George A. Krol had attended the Astana talks as an observer.

The talks were initiated by Turkey, Russia, and Iran in January, bringing together representatives of the Syrian regime and a number of its opposition groups in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

The fifth round of Astana talks was scheduled to take place on June 19 but was postponed until further notice.

A similar round of negotiations is underway under the auspices of the UN.

Erdogan reiterated that the approach of the U.S. Trump administration toward Iran is different from its predecessor.

“Yet this does not mean Turkey’s approach towards Iran is compatible with Washington’s,” Erdogan insisted.

Regarding Tehran-Ankara relations, he asserted, “We have similar positions regarding some cases while on other issues we differ.”

President Erdogan also maintained, “You cannot resolve Iraqi or Syrian problems without Iran’s presence. The Syrian regime is cooperating with Iran. This [is] sectarian expansionism [and] I call it Persian expansionism.”

Underlining his position, Erdogan immediately said, “I do not find this right.”

RTP asked Erdogan, “Is Syria a theater for Iran’s sectarian expansionism?” He answered, “Yes, it is. Is Iraq also a theater? Yes, it is. I regard this as Persian expansionism rather than a sectarian one. I should specifically say that I do not approve of this Persian expansionism,” Anadolu Agency quoted RTP as reporting on June 16.

In the bloody Syrian conflict, Iran has always been a staunch ally of Bashar al Assad whereas Turkey supports some of the opposition groups fighting to overthrow him.

Meanwhile, Erdogan censured Arab states for their actions against Doha.

“We did not expect any blockade against Qatar. I have made several phone calls to many of the world leaders to clarify the situation,” he said.

Regarding Ankara’s support for Doha, Erdogan explained, “Qatar is a country where Muslims are in majority. Those who have blockaded it are also Muslims. It is forbidden for a Muslim to besiege another Muslim in the holy month of Ramadan.”

It is almost two weeks since Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, launched a diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar.

They accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and actions intended to destabilize the region.

Iran and Turkey have volunteered to send food and other necessary supplies to Qatar if needed.